Becoming a Special Operations Marine

MarSOC Training Pipeline Information

MARSOC Raiders shooting
USMC Cpl Benson

The MarSOC Marines have spent the last decade growing into a highly effective Special Operations Force and have seamlessly fit into the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) as Marine Raiders conducting sensitive combat missions all over the world.

From the Official Marine Raider Website, the Mission and Vision of MarSOC are the following:

MARSOC’S MISSION is to recruit, train, sustain, and deploy scalable, expeditionary forces worldwide to accomplish special operations missions assigned by U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). To accomplish that, MARSOC equips and trains Marines to succeed in austere conditions against a wide range of adversaries. MARSOC executes complex, distributed operations in uncertain environments, achieving silent success and strategic impact.

MARSOC’S VISION is to be America’s force of choice to provide small lethal expeditionary teams for global special operations. With tight-knit teams of agile and adaptable operators, MARSOC will continue to punch well above its weight class.

The types of mission Marine Raiders perform are the following but not limited to: Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance, Intelligence Gathering, Security Force Assistance, Counterterrorism, Foreign Internal Defense, and Counterinsurgency. 

Marine Raider Battalions, Regiment, Training Course

The Marine Raiders are organized into three Battalions located either in Camp Pendleton CA (1st Marine Raider Battalion), and Camp Lejeune NC (2nd/3rd Marine Raider Battalions). The headquarters (Marine Raider Regiment) and the school are also located in Camp Lejeune, NC. Each of the Marine Special Operations Companies (MSOC) within the battalions are deployable units of SOCOM and commanded by a Major (O-4).

Qualifying as a Special Operations Marine

You'll need a minimum score of 105 on the general technical segment of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) tests. Your record should be free of nonjudicial punishments, and you need a first-class score on the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test. Most Marines in this job score well above the minimum score, however. 

In addition, you'll have to achieve a second-class score on the Marine Corps Combat Water Survival Test, which includes 30 minutes of treading water nonstop. Only U.S. citizens can apply for this role, and you'll be required to pass an intelligence test and a psychological evaluation. 

Since Special Ops Marines frequently work on highly-sensitive and dangerous missions, you have to be able to qualify for a secret security clearance from the Department of Defense to hold this job. This process involves a background check of finances and character, and a history of alcohol abuse or drug use may be disqualifying. 

The Marines Special Ops Journey

To become a Marine Raider, here are the steps:

1 – Join the Marine Corps. Do a job that you like as the Raiders select from any MOS – however, most come from the 03xx MOS infantry community. It may be smart to do a physically challenging MOS and stay in hardcore Marine shape throughout your first three to four years or until you make Corporal or 1st LT.

2 – Attend the MarSOC Prep Course / Selection Screener. All Marines attend the three-week assessment in Camp Lejeune that is very physically challenging and will cause you to question your desire. This three-week Prep Course is considered Phase 1 of the selection process. If you can ace the PFT (235 and above – closer to 300 is preferred), swim and tread water with your uniform on, and ruck competitively, you stand a chance to get invited to Phase 2.

3 – Prep Course Phase 2 - If you pass and get selected for Phase 2, you will attend a more physically challenging course that also tests you tactically and mentally. This phase is held at an undisclosed location.

4 – Get selected to attend the Individual Training Course (ITC). The ITC is a nine-month course that builds Marine Critical Skills Operators (CSO). Here Marines will learn how to conduct all the Special Operations Mission capabilities listed above and receive advanced training in sniper, communications, intelligence, diving, and language training. Prospective Spec Ops Marines also learn about foreign weapons, fire support, force protection, light infantry tactics, medical training, and internal defense doctrine. The course concludes with a three-week practice special operations mission.

5 – After ITC, the Marine will join the Marine Raider Battalions and start the deployment cycles which are typically 10-12 months of training and a variety of short and long term deployments from 90 days to eight months. Between 100 and 120 Marines attend this course at a time, and usually only 80 to 85 graduate.

Marine Raider Occupations 

Critical Skills Operators (CSOs) and Special Operations Officers (SOOs) are assigned to billets at the team, company, and battalion levels. Enlisted Marines are designated CSOs and awarded the 0372 military occupational specialty (MOS).

Officers are awarded the primary MOS (PMOS) of 0370 after they successfully complete the selection process. Officers and CSOs can stay with special ops units for the duration of their Marine Corps careers.

Special Operations Capabilities Specialists (SOCs) are combat support Marines that are able to join MARSOC. SOCs are operational and tactical force multipliers and frequently deploy alongside CSOs. SOCs' billet fields include intelligence, communications, explosive ordnance disposal, dog handlers, and fire-control specialists. Special operations capabilities specialists are awarded the additional MOS of 8071, and return to the operating forces after an extended tour of service with MARSOC.

Eligible MOSs for Combat Support: Fires Specialists 0861, Communications Specialists, Multi-Purpose Canine Handler, EOD Specialists 2336, SIGINT Specialists 26XX, Geospatial Specialists 0241 and 0261, CI/HUMINT Specialists 0211, All-Source Intel Specialists 0231, Combat Service Support Marines 0431, 0481